UPPER CUMBERLAND —The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development is launching “LiftTN: Microenterprise,” a pilot program to expand microenterprise development across the state, and the Upper Cumberland’s TN Code Academy for Youth has been named a $25,000 recipient.
The program – funded through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – is aimed at helping businesses that have five or fewer employees expand. A total of $400,000 in grant money is being awarded over a two-year contract to five organizations.
Other grantees included: altShops through Communities Unlimited in West Tennessee ($100,000); the Mentor-Protégée Program through Knoxville Chamber of Commerce ($50,000); the Incubator Without Walls Expansion Program through Nashville Business Incubation Center ($200,000); and Sonneschein Green Initiatives (SGI) Marketplace in Hohenwald ($25,000).
“I am extremely pleased TNECD can participate in this pilot program,” Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd said. “Encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship is an important piece of a robust economic development strategy, as entrepreneurs choose to stay here and invest in our state, which ultimately helps create jobs and sustain long-term community growth.”
In order to determine the grant recipients, TNECD – through its office of federal programs and the Business Enterprise Resource Office (BERO) – held four meetings across the state in January and February 2014. The purpose of those meetings was to gather information regarding unmet needs of microenterprises from agencies and organizations that work with small, women-owned, minority-owned, veteran-owned, rural and urban core businesses as well as youth entrepreneurs.
“Through the five selected programs, microenterprises will have access to invaluable services and opportunities that will improve lives and communities,” TNECD’s BERO Director, Wisty Pender, said. “’LiftTN: Microenterprise’ is unique because of the diverse nature of the programs involved. All five engage in a wide range of activities that will serve as a template for possible future expansion of this pilot program.”
“When HUD encouraged us to use more Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to support economic development, we decided to focus on microenterprise businesses,” TNECD’s Director of Federal Programs, Brooxie Carlton, added. “It’s exciting to use some of our CDBG funds in this new way because it allows us to serve very small businesses across Tennessee. The goal is to continue the program beyond this two-year pilot period, ultimately expanding it throughout the state.”
The TN Code Academy will use grant funds to expand the reach of its TN Code Academy for Youth, a program that conducts one-day workshops, camps and classes to further learning and increase interest in computer science and programming for students between the ages of 12-18. The grant will allow TN Code Academy to offer “Apps and Entrepreneurship,” teaching youth not only how to make an app, but how to monetize what they create.
TN Academy is a program of the Upper Cumberland Entrepreneurial Foundation, which is based in Cookeville.